Pain, lameness and a curved back: Herniated disc in dogs is not uncommon and occur due to age and also due to mechanical force on the spine. If your dog is showing these symptoms, it's time to see the vet.
Delayed diagnosis can cause your dog to suffer and experience permanent pain. The disease of the intervertebral disc is not only a human problem. Depending on the severity of the herniated disc, it may need to be treated surgically.
Symptoms of herniated disc in dogs
As with us humans, the herniated disc can occur in your dog in the area of the entire spine. The symptoms turn out differently. It depends on the area of the spine in which the pathological change of the intervertebral disc occurs. In general, the following symptoms may occur:
– Your dog suffers from a tense back. – refusal to jump or climb stairs or the car. – Your dog's gait shows coordination problems. – In addition, the gait of your dog seems stalky. – Your dog drags its hind legs. – A hanging head, tucked tail or trembling indicate pain.
In part, the symptoms also differ by the area of the spine in which the herniated disc occurred. Changes in the intervertebral disc in dogs trigger the following symptoms in the neck area:
– stiff head posture – tense neck muscles – your dog occasionally makes painful sounds – your dog does not allow you to touch him in the neck area – lameness of the front legs – single or bilateral
If disc problems occur in dogs in the thoracic or lumbar region, then the following symptoms will occur:
– Problems with defecation – incontinence when urinating or defecating – hunched back posture – paralysis – pain in the spine when touched
What is a herniated disc?
The spine of the dog has a large number of vertebrae. These include, for example, cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae and lumbar vertebrae. Depending on the size of the dog, up to 53 vertebrae may be present. These bones do not form the spine alone, otherwise it would be a relatively rigid structure. Between the vertebrae are buffers, the so-called intervertebral discs. These ensure smooth movement of the spine. Prevent abrasion of the individual vertebrae. In addition, they also cushion shocks. The intervertebral disc has three essential building blocks: the disc nucleus, the outer annulus, and a transition zone between the first two elements. The core of the intervertebral discs consists of a gelatinous tie that contains about 80 percent water. A disease of the intervertebral disc may initially cause microscopic changes in the tie. As the problem progresses, the disc moves into the spinal canal and puts prere on the spinal cord and the nerves around it. This in turn causes pain.
Intervertebral disc problems in dogs – how does the disease occur??
The herniated disc in dogs has different causes. On the one hand, it may be due to the breed of dog that it is more susceptible to intervertebral disc disease. On the other hand, age, overweight and injuries lead to herniated discs.
1. age-related herniated disc: the damage to the intervertebral disc can occur from the age of four to ten years, depending on the dog's nose. Dog breeds with a long back are affected much earlier than other dog breeds. This includes dachshunds, Pekinese, cocker spaniels, small terriers or even bassets. 2. Mechanical injuries: A massive impact injury can cause the disc to become damaged. It can happen when your dog jumps off the sofa or out of the car. In the same way, the intervertebral discs can be injured when the spine is moved around. 3. degenerative herniated disc: here the center of the disc does not form tie, but bony. Thereby an increased calcium-like mass is formed. Decreases the mobility of the intervertebral disc. This can also penetrate into the vertebral nucleus. Trigger the herniated disc. 4. Overloading of the spine: one-sided stressful movements such as climbing stairs can lead to a herniated disc. In addition, an excessive training program of your dog through agility, dog dance or other activities can cause the spine to lose elasticity. The tie becomes more sensitive. Can rupture more quickly. 5. Lack of exercise: too much exercise damages the intervertebral disc – too little exercise as well. The spine needs systematic movement, otherwise there will be an undersupply of nutrients. Movement pumps the nutrient-rich fluid back and forth in the tie. If your dog lacks movement, the disc can degenerate and the gelatinous core can dry out.
Veterinarians distinguish between two degrees of severity of the herniated disc:
– In severity I, there is protrusion of the disc nucleus into the spinal canal. The outer ring of the disc remains intact. – In severity II, the disc ring is damaged, so the disc mass penetrates completely into the spinal canal, damaging surrounding tie
Herniated disc in dogs – first measures
If there is a suspicion that your dog has herniated a disc based on the various symptoms, you need to see the vet immediately. A herniated disc also leads to the possibility of circulatory problems in the area of the spinal cord. This in turn leads to tie damage. In the worst case, the result is complete paralysis.
You now need to take prere off your dog's spine and make sure he moves as little as possible. He should no longer jump. Be carried into the car. Have someone accompany you on the trip to the vet. The accompanying person can keep an eye on your dog and may also apply a hot water bottle to relax the back muscles.
Diagnosis of herniated disc at the vet
In order for your veterinarian to accurately diagnose the herniated disc and its severity, he must perform a general and a neurological examination. He checks your dog's reflexes in different areas of the nerves. In parallel, your veterinarian must use imaging techniques. This includes computer tomography, i.e. imaging with X-rays. Magnetic resonance imaging allows the veterinarian to use magnetic beams to determine which areas of the spinal cord are affected and the extent of the damage.
If your veterinarian diagnoses a disc prolapse, which is the medical term for the herniated disc, immobilization of your dog is required immediately. You have to take heat preserving measures for the affected part. Either with a heat lamp or with heat pads. In addition, your dog will be given medication with a pain-relieving effect. Furthermore, either cortisone preparations or anti-inflammatory drugs without cortisone are used.
In addition, if the muscles are hardened, your dog must be given muscle-relaxing medication. If the acute phase is over and your dog does not need surgery, then physiotherapy in the form of light massage or with an underwater treadmill can begin the recovery process. In many cases there is a chance of recovery even without surgery. However, there may be motor deficits now and then, such as dragging a leg or an irregular step.
Operation of the intervertebral disc by the veterinarian
If the symptoms do not improve despite treatment or even worsen, then you can not avoid surgery. During the operation, your veterinarian must remove the disc material that has penetrated the spine. After that, a regeneration period of several weeks begins, during which your dog needs a lot of rest and should put as little strain as possible on the spine.
Costs of disc surgery in dogs
Depending on the complexity of the operation, costs in the lower four-digit range will be incurred. In addition to surgery, the costs of diagnostic imaging procedures must also be considered, as well as the costs of physiotherapy. This is where it makes sense to have dog surgery insurance for your dog at a young age to cover this cost risk. If your dog does not need surgery, only canine health insurance will cover the treatment. Therefore, when acquiring a dog, you should carefully consider which form of protection you would like to have in the future.
Fast action on your part is important in the event of a herniated disc. If diagnosed in time, the chances of recovery are good. Delaying treatment and taking the wrong steps in the initial stages of diagnosis usually means surgery is necessary. You must not take back pain in dogs lightly. In the worst case, the herniated disc may require the dog to be euthanized.